When you think of chronic health conditions, diseases like heart disease and diabetes probably come to mind, but there’s another “veiled” health problem that affects around 17% of the adult population: hearing loss. The incidence goes up with age. By the age of 75, half of all adults have some degree of hearing loss.
Sadly, only about 20% of adults who suffer from hearing loss seek help for the problem. The rest suffer in silence, struggling to comprehend what friends and family members are saying to them, often refusing to acknowledge the problem for months or years down the line – if at all.
While it might seem like hearing loss is an isolated problem, decreased hearing is linked with other health problems, including anxiety, depression and even dementia. According to some research, hearing loss is linked with brain atrophy or loss of brain tissue.
In addition, portions of the brain involved in language and speech processing don’t work as well in people who have prolonged hearing loss. It seems that when these areas of the brain aren’t stimulated they contract in size and function. As you might expect, this can have far-reaching implications.
What can you conclude from this? It’s important to seek help for hearing loss as early as possible. It’s possible that by treating hearing loss sooner rather than later, you can reduce the loss of brain tissue. At the very least, getting help for hearing loss can lead to greater social engagement and social interactions with other people – and that’s important for mental health.
So what are you waiting for? If you or a family member has trouble hearing a conversation in a noisy setting or has to turn up the television louder than usual, see a hearing care professional for a full hearing evaluation. Hearing loss is one situation where early detection and treatment is essential
American Speech Language Hearing Association. Untreated Hearing Loss in Adults: A Growing National Epidemic. Retrieved from http://www.asha.org/Aud/Articles/Untreated-Hearing-Loss-in-Adults/